How to Protect Your Business from Wildfires

Did you know that 50,477 wildfires burned 4.7 million acres nationwide in 2019? And according to the National Park Service at least 85% of wildfires are caused by human activity? While Texas and Colorado rank highest for high to extreme wildfire risk, these facts alone should give you pause regardless of where you operate your business. Below we touch on common terms related to wildfires, along with prevention tips and controls you can implement to protect your business from wildfires.

What is a Severity Zone?

A severity zone is classified as moderate, high or extreme. These classifications can be based on:

  • Fire history in the area
  • Vegetation/landscaping
  • Slope
  • Other terrain features

Preparing for a potential wildfire is even more critical if your property is classified as being in a high or extreme severity zone. Search your local area to view the risk using this tool from the USDA and Department of Agriculture. You should also contact your local insurance agent to discuss in more detail.

What is a Defensible Space?

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) defines a defensible space as an area around a building in which vegetation, debris and other types of combustible fuels have been treated, cleared or reduced to slow the spread of fire to and from the building. The National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) recommends a defensible space of up to 200 feet from a structure.

Tips for Preparing and Maintaining Defensible Zones

  1. Zone 3: 100+ feet (to property line)
  • Remove dead trees & plants
  • Keep trees spaced
  1. Zone 2: 30-100 feet
  • Remove dead vegetation
  • Remove hanging branches at least 6 feet off the ground
  • Trim tall grasses/plants that would allow fire to travel up trees
  1. Zone 1: 0-30 feet
  • Use gravel or rock ‘mulch’
  • Relocate firewood piles 
  • Plant high-moisture content annuals and perennials

Is Your Building as Safe as it Can Be?

From your roof to your patio, it’s important to understand what materials offer the best fire protection and the controls you can implement to reduce the likelihood of your livelihood going up in flames.

Roofing

Class A fire-rated roofing material is most effective against fires. Fire-resistant roofing materials include:

  • Clay tile
  • Slate tile
  • Concrete tile (fiber-reinforced)
  • Metal

It is equally important to keep roofs and gutters clear of pine needles, leaves or other debris. It’s also a good idea to have a local fire marshal or roofing professional assess your roof.

Exterior Walls

Noncombustible siding materials like brick and concrete offer the best protection against fire. Try to leave 6 inches of clearance between the ground and the start of the siding to prevent damage from direct flame contact. If a combustible siding material is used, these six inches of clearance, as well as  defensible spaces, are especially important.

Windows and Vents

Dual-pane windows with tempered glass offer increased protection against radiant or direct flame contact. Vents should be covered with ⅛ inch (minimum) noncombustible metal mesh screening to help minimize the size of embers that can enter attic or crawl space area vents.

Patios, Decks and Porches

Flammable materials should not be stored on or under decks. Consider enclosing your elevated deck, patio or porch. Some manufacturers are also incorporating fire retardant chemicals into products like wood-plastic composite decking, so be sure to look into this material option. If you have an existing wood deck and are not looking to replace it any time soon, consider having it treated with exterior fire retardant.

Enforce Smoking Controls

Provide receptacles in easily accessible areas and place these away from the building and combustible materials. Ensure your employees empty these receptacles regularly. The ground should also be

cleaned of cigarette butts to eliminate fire hazard.

Read, ‘Importance of Cigarette Smoking Policies at Your Restaurant & Bar.

Learn more about protecting your business from fire with free resources in this Fire Prevention blog series or view this whitepaper: “Identify and Eliminate Restaurant Fires.” Please contact your local Society agent to discuss more ways to keep your business safe and profitable.

Additional Fire Safety Resources:

Author

As a mutual insurance company, we operate and exist for the benefit of our policyholders. For more than 100 years, Society has been helping businesses overcome the unexpected with comprehensive coverage packages and outstanding claims handling, underwriting and risk management.

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